ST. PAUL -- It's been nearly a month since Victor Rask suited up, but if everything goes to plan, the Wild centerman could return to the lineup on Monday when Minnesota begins a five-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks.
Rask has been out with a lower-body injury sustained Feb. 12 against the Flyers, and his pending return to the lineup would add some much needed depth to the Wild's center position.
Five games prior to Rask's injury, captain Mikko Koivu tore his ACL, an injury that cost him the season. With Rask out, the Wild have been making due.
Before the trade deadline, Mikael Granlund was seeing time down the middle. But after he was traded to Nashville last month, Luke Kunin had been moved to center.
Video: Rask 'ready to play'
But Kunin was injured on Thursday night in Tampa. The hope is that his injury isn't long-term and that he too can return as soon as this week.
Rask joined the Wild in Tampa last week and took part in a morning skate there prior to the team's 3-0 win. Before that, he had been rehabbing back in St. Paul.
"Good to be back with the boys skating. It has been longer than I thought," Rask said. "These guys have been taking good care of me, the trainers, so its obviously took a little longer than we thought. As long as I get back healthy, it could have been way worse than it was. Just happy to be back."
Part of that training came with skating coach Andy Ness, who has been working with Rask on polishing up some of the details of his stride.
"He's been doing really good work with me, working on my edges, and shooting and stuff," Rask said. "So I've got to give a lot of credit to Andy."
Its been a frustrating start to his Wild career. Rask was anxious for the fresh start Minnesota was going to provide him after an injury-marred start to his season in Carolina.
Rask had an assist in his first game with the Wild and scored a goal four games after that, but had been held off the scoresheet in his final five games before the injury.
He was a plus-2 in just three minutes of ice time versus Philly before getting hurt, however. The hope is that he can pick up where he left off there once he returns to the lineup.
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"It [stinks] when you come to a new team and play a few games and then get sidelined by an injury," Rask said. "But you try to look forward. This is where I want to be. Find a way back in and keep working hard."
It certainly won't be an easy return having missed nearly a month of action and returning in the midst of a playoff push.
Minnesota currently sits in the second wild card spot but is just one point clear of the Arizona Coyotes and two points better than the Colorado Avalanche.
The Wild is one point behind Dallas for the top wild card spot and is still within striking distance of third-place St. Louis, five points back.
"It's a challenge," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "But you either accept the challenge and embrace it, and say, 'I can now show what I'm really all about,' or you hide from it and the opinions go the other way."
Rask says he is up for that challenge.
"Just get right in there, you can't sit and wait for anything," Rask said. "Play hard right away and try and play my game."